Potty Training Tips from a Pro - part 2: Tips on the actual training process.

Our parenting consultant shares great potty training tips from her doctrine and on-the-job knowledge

Seeking professional potty training tips I went to speak with Alona, an experienced parenting consultant, to get an expert point of view.

In this part of our conversation Alona shares essential tips on the actual training process. You can find in this page:

  • A few additional preparation tips - "just before starting"
  • How to potty train: Clear, practical steps.
  • Some Dos and Don'ts

Alona's potty training tips are based on the Adler approach, as well as on her own professional view.

(The conversation was editted to appear in a structured manner ordered by topics.)


Alona Oren:

Family Consultant certified by "Maagalim" Psychology Institute and the Ministry of Education (Israel) * Parenting Facilitator certified by Adler Institute and the Ministry of Education (Israel)

Alona bases her work widely on the Adlerian psychology school (see Adlerian psychology--Wikipedia), and combines other approaches such as behavioral - cognitive psychology and Imago Relationship Therapy.

The information presented in this page is based on a two-hours 'interview' I conducted with Alona on January 2012.

Potty training tips just before starting: Parent readiness

Alona begins our conversation by emphasizing:

Potty training starts with the parent leading the process. So above everything else – we, the parents, have to be ready and willing to start.

It means:

  • We decide to start because, we either recognize that the child is ready, or we realize that the age is right and we want to start addressing it.
  • We set realistic expectations for ourselves:

    We understand that potty training is a process, that there will be “accidents” and there may be ups and downs.

    We “get” what it requires from us as the parents, and we’re ready emotionally to start this process with our child and lead it.
  • Practical readiness: We make the time to start training and make sure we’re available to handle it (emotionally, logistically).

She also recommends that we don't start potty training too close to other transitions, such as - birth of a baby brother or sister, starting a new Daycare/Preschool or changing residence.

"How to" potty training tips: Practical steps.

Next, Alona shares these essential potty training tips on how to approach the training process.

Step 1: Inspire motivation and confidence

We start potty training by talking about it with our child, preparing and encouraging - as elaborated in this page: Tips from Experts - Preparing Kids article.


Step 2: Make it a joint agreement

We pick the date, after weighing-in our own availability (as mentioned in the first paragraph above). Alona recommends that we make it a joint agreement with the child:

  • Give him a few options on the date and let him choose from that.
  • As we're getting closer to the date - remind him about it and make sure he knows when we start.

(This too is described in more details in Tips from experts - Preparing Kids article.)

Step 3: Get friendly with toilet/potty

Just as we're about to start, Alona recommends that we let the child “get friendly” with the toilet or potty. This also means we let them pick which one they feel more comfortable with.

We can take it one step further:

  • Go shopping with the child for a new Potty or Toilet-seat.
  • Put their name on it
  • Let them decorate it a little with paint or stickers

The important thing is to make the Toilet-or-Potty more personal and familiar to the child before we start the actual training.

Step 4: House preparations

When the date has come (the night before) – we make the house ready by rolling carpets, putting away expensive fabrics, covering sofas etc.

This is not just for the sake of the fabrics: We want to be sure not to mix irrelevant emotions into the training, and keep our own responses in control.

Step 5Concentrated “Kick-start”

We start the actual training with 3-or-more days that we spend with the child at home (Weekend can be a good solution for a working parent).

Don't take the child to Daycare during those few days. It’s important that we don’t hand over the training to a caregiver at this point - since we want to establish a good basis for success before we do that.

Step 6: Guide and explain

Explain to the child what we’re doing and what’s expected of him.

Something like: “When you feel that you have to make pee, you’ll run quickly to the bathroom and make the pee-pee in the toilet”.

Also here, it’s important to match our expectations with the child’s capabilities: If we think he is verbal enough and can tell us that he needs to go -- great. If not, we need to be more alert.

Anyway we have to watch the child closely in the beginning.


Suggestion: Practice with Diaper

Before going diaper-free for the first time, Alona recommends we do a practice-run with diaper. This includes a prep talk much like the one described in the paragraph above (step 6: Guide and Explain).

We can practice it several times and even do a little test: “Let’s see how fast you can run to the toilet and remove your diaper…”


Ongoing: Encouragement and positive reinforcement

As we move forward with the toilet training, we keep encouraging and giving positive feedback - as we did in the prep stage.

It’s important to emphasize the positive and praise the small successes, rather than specifying what they did wrong.

For instance: If the poo fell on the floor near the toilet -- praise them for the intention and for almost making it. Tell them how great they are for trying, and that they’ll get it right very soon.

More potty training tips: Dos and Don'ts according to Alona

Question: What do you think about prompting to go make pee?

Alona answers that she’s not a fan of prompting children to go make pee, go sit on the toilet, or even asking them if they need to go.

Her reason (aligned with the Adler approach) has to do with taking responsibility.

Alona: We teach them to be responsible for their own body. If I keep asking “Do you need to go?” - the responsibility stays with me, the parent.

Instead of prompting, she suggests - we teach the child what to do when he feels that he needs to make pee.

We can remind, by asking: “Do you remember what to do, when you feel that you need to make pee?”

We can remind 2-3 times a day (what to do when you have to go), but really - hand over the responsibility to the child.

Make potty training pleasant, but don’t make it into a game:

  • Don’t go back and forth from diaper to no-diaper. Once we start toilet training we need to be consistent.

    Parents sometime go back-n-forth from various reasons: the child doesn’t feel like using the potty today * we (parents) are not confident * or simply for our own convenience.

    Bottom line - it sends the wrong message to kids, so we need to avoid that.

  • Don’t teach the child to make pee outside as a substitute for teaching real toilet habits. Remember that this is a step into grownups society, so we want to teach them the same rules that apply to us.

Focus on finding the solution rather than looking for the problem.

When dealing with potty training difficulties Alona says - she's all for find the solution that works, as oppose to over-analyzing the problem.

For instance: Encopresis ("soiling") problem that has been going on for months -- I want to stop this behavior as soon as possible. So I'll keep working on solutions, rather than trying to analyze why my kid behaves this way.

At the same time though - I will stay attentive, as a parent, to any emotional ‘issues’ in the background that might be contributing to the problem.

Props... Potty training underpants?

Alona: I don't recommend using potty training underpants as they tend to be confusing for many kids: “Is it a diaper or is it underpants? Can I pee in them or not?”

The fact that these underpants diminish the effect of “accidents” is a minus.

Would you like to read more potty training tips? ** Try this bonus article about how to "work" the toilet training doll method.

Interested in more potty training tips from a pro?

Use the following link to go back to the main page, where the full list of articles is available:

Return from Potty Training Tips (2) - actual process - to Tips from experts main page

Return from Potty Training Tips (2) - actual process - to Potty Training Tools Home page